These scenes are also notable in defining Yelena's character. First, they reveal her in all her idleness: she cannot even begin to be interested in the tasks Sonya offers her, tasks that might rescue her from her boredom. Nor can she feign interest in Astrov's cartogram. As Sonya notes, this idleness is "infectious," bewitching, inspiring the household's general malaise. Once again, as indicated throughout the play, Yelena's arrival, along with that of her husband, has thrown the life of the estate out of joint, plunging it into indolence. One might speculate then on how her wasted life perhaps reminds those around her of their own situations, making work impossible. Recall that in Act I, for example, when Voynitsky declares that before Yelena he cannot bear the thought of another wasting her life on the estate as he has.
[Additional Note: At one point in explaining his ecological map to Yelena, he refers to the "hermitages of Old Believers." Also referred to as Old Ritualists or Schismatics, the Old Believers split from the Russian Orthodox Church in 1667 over the revision of the church books, preferring the older versions.]